Deville - The People's Marx (1893)

Chapter XIV: Division of Labor and Manufacture

I. Two-fold origin of manufacture.
II. The detail laborer and his implements.
III. The two fundamental forms of manufacture. —General mechanism of manufacture. —Effect of manufacture on labor.
IV. Division of labor in manufacture and in society.
V. The capitalist character of manufacture.

I.—Two-Fold Origin of Manufacture.

That species of co-operation which is based on division of labor assumes its classical form in manufacture, and is the dominant form during the manufacturing period, properly so-called. That period extends from about the middle of the sixteenth down to the last third of the eighteenth century.

Manufacture has a two-fold origin.

(1) On the one hand, there may be assembled in a single workshop, under the orders of the same capitalist, artisans of divers handicrafts through whose hands a product must pass on its road to completion. A carriage was at first the collective product of a great number of artisans independent of each other, such as wheelwrights, saddlers, tailors, turners, painters, locksmiths, glaziers, etc. The manufacture of carriages has brought all these together in one and the same place, where they work simultaneously. As many carriages are made at once, each laborer constantly has his particular task to perform. But soon an essential modification is introduced. The locksmith, the tailor, etc., who are occupied only in making carriages, gradually get out of practice and lose their ability to carry on their trade in its full extent. Limited now to one special branch of their trade, their skill acquires the form most fit for that restricted field of action.

(2) On the other hand, a large number of laborers, each one of whom makes the same object, may be employed at the same time, by the same capitalist, in the same workshop. Here we have co-operation in its simplest form. Each one of the laborers makes the finished commodity by performing in succession the various operations necessary. In consequence of external circumstances, some day, instead of having the various operations performed by each of the laborers, as before, each operation is especially allotted to one particular laborer, and all are then simultaneously performed by the cooperating laborers, each laborer performing only one operation, instead of performing them all one after the other. This division, once accidentally brought about, is repeated, shows its peculiar advantages, and ends by becoming a systematic division of labor. Formerly the individual product of one independent craftsman performing a lot of different operations, the commodity becomes the social product of an assemblage of craftsmen, each of whom constantly performs one and only one detail operation.

The origin of manufacture—its development from handicrafts—is, then, two-fold. On the one hand, its starting-point is the combination of various independent handicrafts, which, after they are brought together, are simplified and specialized to such an extent that they become nothing more than mere partial operations, supplementing each other in the production of some one particular commodity. On the other hand, manufacture seizes upon the co-operation of craftsmen of the same kind, it splits up their handicraft into its various operations, isolates these operations and makes them independent of each other, so that each becomes the exclusive function of one laborer, who, as he now makes only a part of a product, is now nothing more than a detail laborer. Hence, in the one case, it combines distinct handicrafts to make one product; in the other case, it develops the division of labor within a handicraft. But whatever its starting- point, its final form is the same: a productive organism whose parts or members are human beings.

To understand thoroughly the division of labor in manufacture, it is essential not to lose sight of the two following points: First, the performance of the various operations does not cease to depend on the strength, skill and quickness of the workman in handling his tool; and so each workman is, bound to a detail function, a partial function for his entire life-time.

Second, the division of labor in manufacture is a particular kind of co-operation; its advantages, however, spring especially, not from this particular form, but from the nature of co-operation in general.

II.—The Detail Laborer and His Implements.

The detail laborer transforms his entire body into the mechanical organ of one and the same simple operation, which he performs his life long, so that he comes to perform it more quickly than the artisan who performs whole series of operations. Hence, compared to the independent handicraft, manufacture, which is composed exclusively of detail laborers, turns out more products in less time. In other words, it increases the productive power of labor.

The artisan who has to perform various operations must at one time change his place—at another, his tools. The transition from one operation to another involves interruptions of his labor, unproductive intervals. These intervals disappear, leaving more time for production, in proportion to the decrease in the number of changes from one operation to another made by each laborer—a decrease due to the division of labor. On the other hand, this continuous and uniform labor finally wearies the organism, which finds relaxation and charm in the variety of its activities.

As soon as the portions of the labor-process thus divided become the exclusive functions of detail laborers, their methods are perfected. When a man constantly repeats one simple act, and concentrates his attention upon it, he gradually learns by experience to attain the desired useful effect with the smallest possible expenditure of strength. And, as there always are several generations of laborers living and working at the same time, in the same shops, the technical skill, the tricks of the trade, thus acquired are accumulated and handed down, and in this way the productive power of labor is increased.

The productivity of labor does not depend solely on the skilfulness of the laborer, but also on the perfection of his tools. The same kind of tool may be used in differently operations. As these operations become independent and isolated, the tool does not keep its single form, but is divided and subdivided more and more into different varieties, each of which has a form adapted for only one use, but that form is the form best adapted for that use. The manufacturing period simplifies, specializes, perfects and multiplies the instruments of labor by adapting them to the separate and exclusive functions of detail laborers.

The detail laborer and his tool are the simple elements of manufacture. We are going to examine its general mechanism.

III.—The Two Fundamental Forms of Manufacture.

Manufacture presents two fundamental forms, which, in spite of their occasional blending, constitute two essentially distinct species, which play very different parts in the subsequent transformation of manufacture into modern, mechanical industry. This double character arises from the nature of the product, which owes its final form either to a mere mechanical assembling of independent, partial products, or to a series of connected transformations.

The first species (of manufacture) furnishes products whose final form is only a simple union of partial products. These partial products may be the fruits of distinct handicrafts. A sample product of this kind is the watch. The watch has become the social product of an immense number of laborers, such as spring-makers, dial-makers, hand-makers, case-makers, screw-makers, gilders, etc. There are many sub-divisions of these. There are, for instance, wheel-makers (brass and steel separate), movement-makers, pivot-makers, escapement- makers, balance-wheel-makers, wheel polishers, screw polishers, figure painters, engravers, ease polishers, etc., etc., and finally the repasseur who assembles and fits together the separate parts and turns out the watch all ready for sale. But as these elements differ so widely, it is wholly a matter of chance whether the artisans who make them are brought together under one roof or not. The artisans, who work in rooms in their own homes performing these detail operations, do so for the capitalist, and carry on a bitter competition with their fellows to the profit of the capitalist, who, moreover, is saved the expense of a workshop. And so, in this species of production, there are advantages (for the capitalist) in manufacturing exploitation, only under exceptional circumstances.

The second species of manufacture, its perfected form, furnishes products that pass through a whole series of processes in their gradual development. In the manufacture of pins, for instance, the brass wire passes through the hands of nearly a hundred workmen, each performing a different operation. In so far as such a manufacture combines handicrafts formerly independent, it diminishes the intervals of time between the different operations, and the gain in productive power resulting from this economy of time is due to the co-operative character of the manufacture.

General Mechanism of Manufacture.

Before reaching its final form, the subject of labor, brass for instance in the manufacture of pins, passes through a whole series of operations which, taking the whole number of products in course of manufacture into consideration, are all being performed at the same time. At the same time one may see the cutting of the wire, the making of the pin-heads, the sharpening of the points, etc. The product thus appears simultaneously in all stages of its development.

Since the partial product of each detail laborer is only a particular stage in the development of the finished work, the result of the labor of one forms the starting- point for the labor of another. The labor-time necessary in each partial operation to obtain the desired useful effect is established by experience, and the whole mechanism of manufacture functions only on condition that a given result be obtained in a given time. It is in this way only that the various fragmentary and supplementary labor-processes can be carried on side by side and without interruption. This direct interdependence in which the laborers are placed with regard to each other is the reflex of the interdependence of the processes, and compels each one of them to devote to his function no more than the necessary time and thus increases the productivity of the labor.

Different operations require, however, unequal periods of time and yield, therefore, in equal times unequal quantities of partial products. Hence, for the same laborer to perform every day without loss of time one identical operation, a different number of laborers must be employed for each different operation. For instance, there are four founders to two breakers and one rubber in type manufacture. In an hour the founder casts 2,000 type, while the breaker separates 4,000, and the rubber polishes 8,000.

When once the most fitting proportion has been experimentally established for the numbers of the detail laborers in the various groups when producing on a given scale, that scale can be extended only by employing a multiple of each and every group.

The special group may be composed, not only of laborers performing the same task, but of workmen having each his particular function in the making of a partial product. The group is then a perfectly organized collective laborer. The workmen who compose it are so many different organs of one collective force which functions only by virtue of the direct co-operation of all. If only one of them be missing the whole group is paralyzed.

Finally, just as manufacture arises in part from the combination of different handicrafts, it may in its turn develop by combining together different manufacturers. It is thus that in the large glass works they make the earthen-ware melting-pots that that manufacture requires. The manufacture of the means of production is united to that of the product, and the manufacture of the product to the manufactures into which it enters as a raw material. The manufactures thus combined form departments of manufacture at large, while constituting

independent processes of production each with its own distinct division of labor. In spite of its advantages, this combination of manufactures only becomes a unified system after the transformation of manufacturing industry into industry conducted by machinery.

With the development of manufacture there also springs up here and there the use of machines, especially for certain simple preliminary processes that can only be performed on a large scale and with the expenditure of considerable power. The pounding of ores in metal works is such a process. But, in general, in the manufacturing period, machines play only a secondary part.

Effect of Manufacture on Labor.

The collective laborer, formed by the combination of a large number of detail laborers, forms the mechanism specially characteristic of the manufacturing period.

The various operations that are performed in turns by the individual producer of a commodity and are blended together in his labor as a whole, require different qualities. In one he must display more skill, in another more strength, in a third more attention, etc., and the same individual does not possess all these faculties in an equal degree. When the different operations are once separated and rendered independent, the laborers are divided and grouped according to their predominating faculties or qualities. In this way the collective laborer possesses all the requisite productive faculties, that it is impossible to find united in the individual laborer, and he applies

them in the most economical and practical fashion, by employing his component individuals only upon the functions for which their qualities adapt them. The incompleteness and defectiveness of the detail laborer become perfections when he is an organ of the collective laborer.

The habit of performing only one function transforms him into the unerring and mechanical organ of that function, while the whole mechanism compels him to act with the regularity of a part of a machine.

As the various functions of the collective laborer are more or less simple or complex, higher or lower in character, his organs, the individual labor-powers, must also be more or less simple or skilled, more or less developed. Consequently they have different values. Manufacture thus creates, to conform to the hierarchy of functions, a hierarchy of labor-powers to which there is a corresponding gradation of wages.

Every productive process requires certain simple tasks that any ordinary man is capable of performing. These are severed from the important operations which necessitate them, and converted into exclusive functions of certain laborers. Hence manufacture produces, in every handicraft it seizes upon, a category of common or unskilled laborers. If it develops the isolated specialty so far that the skill in it becomes excessive at the expense of the artisan's labor-power as an integral whole, it also begins to make a specialty of the absence of all development. Beside the hierarchic gradation, there takes place a simple division of the laborers into skilled and unskilled.

For the latter, the expenses of apprenticeship vanish; for the former, they are less than they were when a complete handicraft had to be learned. In both cases labor-power falls in value. The relative fall in the value of labor-power, caused by the disappearance or diminution of the expenses of apprenticeship, occasions a direct increase of surplus-value to the advantage of capital. Every thing, in fact, that reduces the time necessary for the production of labor-power, by that very reduction enlarges the domain of surplus-labor.

IV.—Division of Labor in Manufacture and in Society.

Let us now consider the relation between the division of labor in manufacture and the social division of labor, the allotment of individuals to various occupations, which forms the general basis of all commodity-production.

If we limit ourselves to the examination of labor alone, we may designate the separation of social production into its great mechanical industry, etc.—as division of labor in general. The separation of these main divisions of production into species and varieties, we may designate as division of labor in particular, and finally the division of labor within the workshop as division of labor in detail.

Just as the division of labor in manufacture requires, as its material basis, the simultaneous employment of a certain number of laborers, so the division of labor in society requires a large and compact population which corresponds to the agglomeration of laborers in the workshop.

Division of labor in manufacture takes root only where the social division of labor has already attained a certain stage of development. On the other hand, the former division develops and multiplies the latter, subdividing an occupation in accordance with the variety of its operations and organizing these different operations into distinct trades.

In spite of the analogies and relations that exist between the division of labor in society and the division of labor within the workshop, there is nevertheless an essential difference between them.

The analogy is striking wherever a close tie unites different branches of industry. The cattle-raiser, for instance, produces hides; the tanner transforms them into leather; and the shoe-maker makes boots with the leather. In this social division of labor, as in the division in manufacture, each furnishes only a fraction of the final product and the final product is the collective result of these special kinds of labor.

But what forms the tie between the independent labors of the cattle-raiser, the tanner, and the shoe-maker? It is the fact that their respective products are commodities. And what is the distinguishing mark, on the contrary, of the division of labor in manufacture? It is the fact that the detail laborers do not produce commodities; only their collective product becomes a commodity. The division of labor in manufacture implies concentration of the means of production in the hands of a capitalist; the social division of labor implies the dispersion of the means of production among many independent

producers of commodities. While in manufacture the proportion indicated by experience determines the number of laborers assigned to each particular function, in society chance and caprice control in the most chaotic fashion the distribution of the producers and their means of production among the various branches of labor.

While the different branches of production expand or contract according to the variation in market prices, they nevertheless tend, under the pressure of crises, to approach an equilibrium. But this tendency toward an equilibrium is only a reaction against the constant destruction of this equilibrium.

The division of labor in manufacture implies the absolute authority of the capitalist over men transformed into mere parts of a mechanism that belongs to him. The division of labor in society confronts with each other independent producers who recognize no authority but that of competition, and no power but the pressure exerted upon them by their mutual interests. And that bourgeois mind which lands the division of labor in manufacture, i.e., the perpetual condemnation of the laborer to one detail operation and his absolute subordination to the capitalist, loudly and indignantly protests when any one proposes the social control, regulation, and organization. of production! It denounces every attempt of this kind as an attack upon the rights of property and upon liberty "Do you wish to transform society into a factory ?" shriek these enthusiastic partisans of the factory system. The factory regime is, it would appear, good only for the proletarians. Anarchy in the division of labor in society and despotism in the division of labor in manufacture characterize bourgeois society.

While the division of labor in society, with or without the exchange of commodities, is common to the most diverse economic forms of society, the division of labor in manufacture is a special creation of the capitalist mode of production.

V.—The Capitalist Character of Manufacture.

With manufacture and the division of labor, the minimum number of laborers that a capitalist must employ is imposed upon him by the established division of labor. To obtain the advantages of a further division he must enlarge his personnel, and we have seen that every increase must affect simultaneously, in given proportions, all the groups in the workshop. This enlargement of the part of capital devoted to the purchase of labor-powers—of the variable capital—naturally necessitates the increase of the constant part advanced in the means of production, especially in raw materials. Hence manufacture continuously increases the minimum of money that is indispensable to the capitalist.

Manufacture completely revolutionizes the individual mode of working and attacks labor-power at its root. It maims the laborer, it turns him into a monstrosity by stimulating the unnatural development of his detail dexterity at the expense of his general development. The individual is converted into a mechanical automaton with only one function. If his dexterity is acquired at the expense of his intelligence, the knowledge and intellectual development which he loses become concentrated in others as a power dominating him, a power enrolled in the service of capital.

Originally, the laborer sold his labor-power to capital, only because he lacked the material means of production. But now the workman no longer has an entire trade or complete handicraft. He does not know how to perform the various operations that contribute to the production of a commodity. Without the co-operation of a larger or smaller number of fellow-workers, the one and only detail function that he is capable of performing is of no avail. Now, he is only an accessory that in isolation has no utility. Hence his labor-power is useless to him, if it is not sold. It is unable to function outside of the social environment that exists only in the workshop of the capitalist.

Co-operation based on division of labor—that is to say, manufacture—is, in its infancy, a spontaneous creation. As soon as it has acquired some stability and a broad enough foundation, it becomes the recognized and systematic form of capitalistic production.

Division of labor, which is developed experimentally is only one particular method of increasing the income of capital at the expense of the laborer. While increasing the productive powers of labor, it creates new conditions which assure the domination of labor by capital. It appears then both as a progress historically, a necessary stage in the economic evolution of society, and as a refined and civilized method of exploitation.

So long as manufacture is the dominant form of the capitalist mode of production, the realization of the ruling tendencies of capital still encounters obstacles. In spite of every thing, handicraft skill remains the foundation of manufacture. The skilled laborers are the more numerous and manufacture cannot proceed without them. They have, therefore, a certain power of resistance. Capital has to struggle incessantly against their insubordination.